If the TV show MythBusters ever did a program on farming, there are several common myths about farmers they could bust.
- Myth #1: Farmers own the land they farm. Yes, there is some generational wealth in farming. Farmers who own their land free and clear have a clear advantage, at least on those portions. Yet many farmers are paying long-term land mortgage notes for their land. Still more are paying annual cash rent payments – in some areas $500-600 per acre – or splitting revenue with their landlords by farming on shares. The truth is more than half of all US cropland is rented. This contributes to the short-sighted economic realities of farming. It also plays a big role in the adoption of regen ag and soil health practices and carbon capture programs. These practices can require significant investments in equipment, labor, seed, herbicides and land improvements. While a new study shows that farmers could expect a 15-20% ROI by transitioning from conventional to regen ag practices, the process can take 3-5 years. This can be tough enough to pull off on your own land. But if farmers rent their land with short-term leases, this adds an additional layer of complexity. Do I make investments in rented land, and in my operation, knowing I could soon lose the farm? This is a question many farmers deal with. Humates can help accelerate this transition period by expediting improvements in soil fertility and boosting soil microbe populations.
- Myth #2: Farmers buy everything in cash. The vast majority of farmers take out operating loans for crop inputs such as seed, fertilizer, crop protection products, fuel and other production expenses. And this doesn’t include long-term loans for equipment, land and buildings. Even when securing early-order discounts – often offered the previous fall – they need to dip into the line of credit at their lender. So interest rates greatly impact a grower’s bottom line and decision-making process. This past year we’ve seen interest rates skyrocket. Operating loans are now at 8-9% — over 4x what farmers paid in the fall of 2021.These high interest rates have likely impacted a delayed response by farmers in purchasing crop nutrients and other inputs this year.
- Myth #3: Farmers are attached to a specific crop. Sure, there is some degree of regional pride in being a Delta cotton grower or Iowa corn grower. But the reality is, most farmers are crop neutral. They have land, labor and equipment at their disposal and will grow what’s most profitable for them based on yield potential, cost of production, environmental factors, market price and market access. Currently, Southern farmers generally have more options than their peers in the Midwest based on the climate.
- Myth #4: Farmers are brand loyalty. Growing up on the farm, it seemed like you were either green or red, bowtie or oval, trapezoid or flying ear. My, how times have changed. Many farmers are going color blind. Nearly 30% of those highly coveted large farmers (>5,000 acres) say brand is less of a priority when selecting farm equipment than it was just five years ago. Over one-third planned to shop more retailers this year.
- Myth #5: Large corporations have taken over US agriculture. Family farms represent 98% of all farms and account for 85% of total production. Those numbers are largely unchanged over the past decade.
- Myth #6: Farmers rely solely on farm income. The truth is, 82% of US farm household income comes from off-farm income. This comes by way of both off-farm jobs by farmers and spousal off-farm income.
Individuality can be a great trait to teach your kids. But it’s nothing you want for your crops. You want them to conform to the crowd when they’re young. Those who don’t, get left behind. Your cropping game plan should be all about reaching uniformity. Starting from the moment plants emerge, you want them growing in unison. You also want plants to grow fast and uninterrupted. Vigor is a key ingredient to optimizing yield potential. I took a stand count last week and the population is 40,650 plants per acre. Basically, every seed planted emerged. While scouting the entire field, I observed just a handful of runt plants. Singulation was superb, as seeds appear spaced evenly across the 38” rows. Jump-starting seeds with Huma Gro® Zap® and Breakout® brought about this togetherness, and a V2 application of Max Pak®, Crop-Gard® and Vitol® brought energy to the plants. In just 25 days after planting, the corn has already reached the V5 stage and resembles a green picket fence.